Issue 049

May 2009

Sometimes a fighter’s nickname bears little connection to their character. Many nicknames are based on puns or inside jokes (take Dan ‘Hollywood’ Henderson, or Dustin ‘McLovin’ Hazelett as examples), some are trademarks (Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic), while others are purely descriptive (‘Big’ Ben Rothwell). Some nicknames are given because they aren’t just apt, but totally fit that person’s character. Such was the case with Igor ‘Ice Cold’ Vovchanchyn. A 5’9” kickboxer from the Ukraine, Vovchanchyn was one of the most exciting fighters to compete during the heyday of Pride.  

Renowned for his ferocious punching power and ‘fight anyone’ attitude, Vovchanchyn competed at the highest levels of MMA as a heavyweight, despite being a natural light heavyweight in build. Short and stocky, the Ukrainian was a feared competitor and had a string of knockouts on his highlight reel, prior to retiring in 2005.  

Only in the last two years of his ten-year career did we see Vovchanchyn at his true fighting weight. After a brutal head-kick loss to a prime Cro Cop he finally started fighting men his own size, although he still managed to fit in a fight against the 150kg Dan Bobish. The years of fighting bigger men had taken their toll, and the injuries he had accumulated during his time in the game forced him into retirement. 

Beginning his martial arts training as a teen, the young Igor had a fierce temper and was something of a bully. “I studied well in school. I fought a lot, I had beaten everybody back then. Basically, I was a bully,” he chuckled. “At school I used to train in athletics. I had trained there for five years and I ran faster than anybody. Later on I was invited to box. Only then someone approached me asking to go train in kickboxing.”  

Vovchanchyn fought 60 times as a kickboxer, making his MMA debut in 1995 at 22 years of age. Between 1995 and 1998 he fought almost exclusively in tournaments and lost only once, a submission loss to Mikhail Illoukhine, who would later become Fedor Emelianenko’s grappling coach. He destroyed opponents from Israel to the Ukraine, fighting bare knuckle in Brazil and Russia and going undefeated in 33 fights.  

His destructive talents did not go unnoticed and he was invited to compete in Japan in 1998, facing Gary Goodridge on Pride 4. He would become a staple of the organisation, fighting for them 27 times in total, facing the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba, Quinton Jackson, Mark Kerr and Heath Herring.  

Though a skilled striker who employed an array of punches and kicks in his fights, it is hard to remember Vovchanchyn for his finesse. Watching his fights was always an edge-of-your-seat experience, as his heavy hands and willingness to throw down meant his opponents were often in danger of an early night. One look at a Vovchanchyn highlight will tell you everything you need to know.  

Certainly, Vovchanchyn will be remembered for his brutal and punishing knockouts of the likes of Adilson Lima, Paul Varelans, Gary Goodridge, Francisco Bueno and Yoshiki Takahashi, but the Ukrainian dynamo was also a skilled grappler who had 19 submission victories to his name. Building upon his extensive striking background, he developed a wrestling game that not only allowed him to sprawl ‘n brawl, but also to take his opponents down and beat them up.  

Undeniably, Igor was most definitely ‘Ice Cold’ in the ring, but away from it he was an affable character, one who would happily meet and greet his fans. Far from the terrifying menace he posed in battle, Igor would happily joke about with other fighters after his fights.  

With it now approaching four years since his last fight, Igor is soundly retired from his life of figting around the world. “I’m a businessman now. I won’t come back. Sure I think about it every once in a while, but I’m 35, you know?

“The main problem is the injuries. I can’t even strike with my right hand. I’ve got three screws in my right elbow, and one in the left. I’m about to undergo an operation on my nose as I can’t breathe properly. To sum things up, there is no sense in my comeback.”  



Makes MMA debut, fighting bare knuckle in Moscow.  


Wins three separate eight-man tournaments in Russia and the Ukraine.  


Wins another three tournaments, fighting in Russia and Israel.  


Fights in Brazil, later makes Pride debut. 


Advances to the finals of the Pride 2000 open weight Grand Prix, but loses to Mark Coleman.


Fights six times in total, losing only to Mario Sperry and Tra Telligman. 


Goes undefeated in three fights. 


Goes 2-2, losing back to back against Alistair Overeem and Nakamura. Retires.